“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who makes all the gopis cast aside their household duties with the playful dancing of the corner of His eyes, and who is the lover of Vrishabhanu’s daughter, who is intoxicated with love for Him.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 8)
nāgaro jayati kuñja-vihārī
What would happen if you were to abandoned your household chores? You know, what if you forgot to make dinner? What if you don’t clean for a while or don’t take out the trash? A long time ago, the daily household chores for a group of women were so involved that the entire day could be spent in work at home. These were working women in the truest sense, but from the dancing of the corner of the eyes of one particular youth, they would instantly forget about their work.
Were these women careless? Wasn’t it sinful to be enchanted by another’s glances? Actually, these women represent the height of virtue. In the end it is the mind which determines whether or not the activities we commit are sinful. Even in the eyes of the law there are such distinctions. A military man kills others on the battlefield and the murderer kills people in residential neighborhoods. One act is heroic and the other heinous. Killing is present in both instances, but because of the disposition of the mind and the consideration of the higher authority, the activities are not equivalent.
The same truth is reinforced by Shri Hanuman, a famous divine figure of the Vedic tradition. One time he had to search for a missing princess, the wife of Lord Rama. It was learned that she was in Lanka, which was ruled at the time by a powerful king named Ravana. To find Sita, the beautiful wife of the sun of the solar dynasty, Hanuman had to look through the inner apartments of Ravana’s palaces. Ravana had many wives, so Hanuman inadvertently looked at women in vulnerable states. Picture someone peeping into your bedroom. Women particularly don’t like this, and yet what could Hanuman do?
“It is certainly the mind that is instrumental in causing the senses to act in ways that lead to either auspicious or inauspicious conditions. And my mind right now is positively situated.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.41)
In reviewing his actions, Hanuman correctly concluded that his behavior was not sinful because of the disposition of his mind. He was looking for Sita, and seeing these women by accident did not change his mindset. He was not adversely affected, so there could not have been any sin. More importantly, he was working for Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince.
The same Rama was there in Vrindavana to enchant the household women faithful to their endless chores. Rama was there as Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna’s name means “all-attractive”, and so by just moving the corners of His eyes up and down He can get a fruitive worker to change their mindset, to focus on Him instead of their work.
For the gopis, the household chores were many. Vrindavana was a self-sustaining farm community. The people didn’t need to travel to distant supermarkets to pick up essentials. They grew their own food and raised their own cows. The cows were protected, and as a result the milk production was abundant. Vrindavana had commodities in the form of yogurt and cream, and the gopis would sometimes travel to the neighboring town of Mathura to sell the surplus. During the day they would also tend to the cows, feed their families, and keep a peaceful environment for their husbands.
In love for God, there is no need to fear material loss. If I work on a project today, I’m automatically missing out on something else. I will never get that something back, and so I have to prioritize my obligations. One thing must take precedent over another. In loving God, which is known as bhakti-yoga, there is no loss because the love itself is the greatest gain. It is the most valuable thing any person could acquire, and so even if there is the fear of material loss, eventually the fear dissipates.
The gopis would abandon all of their household work when Krishna would move the corners of His eyes up and down. In one sense this made the gopis more faithful to their work later on, because they would get to think of God while carrying out their work. In any endeavor, if your heart is not in it, you will not do a good job. Also, if you are unhappy from the outset, you will have a difficult time even starting the job.
But if you’re thinking of the all-attractive delight of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna, and you don’t want anyone to know that you’re thinking of Him, you can carry out your task with outward dedication. You just think of Krishna the whole time, and for the gopis this wasn’t difficult. They got to see Him all the time, so He stayed within their minds. That is the whole point to bhakti-yoga after all, to keep God within your consciousness. Through reading works authored by Vaishnava saints like Rupa Gosvami and chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, Krishna quickly becomes a fixture in the mind, allowing for duties to be abandoned or accepted without issue.
The gopis offer Krishna a wonderful gift with their attention. The young Krishna in Vrindavana is very clever. He sometimes steals butter from the homes of neighbors and then denies it later on, but with everything He does He is charming. As if to add to His opulences, He is adored by the most faithful women in the world, women who pay more attention to loving God than to rules and regulations. The gopis are not handcuffed by the strict moral codes, whose ultimate purpose is to foster love for God anyway. They have a spontaneous devotion that is evident when they cast aside their household chores to meet with the reservoir of all pleasure, Shri Krishna.
Carry out my work for goal to attain,
But can’t do something else at time the same.
Prioritize to find that which to live without,
Some work to stay, others to toss out.
Gopis in Vrindavana never anything to lose,
Because always to please Krishna they choose.
At His dancing eyes household chores they drop,
Work again later, and never thinking of Lord stop.
When you have Him why over anything to fear?
From gopis supremacy of bhakti-yoga made clear.